A New England nonprofit health carrier has agreed to make a payment charity to resolve an investigation of its past relationships with state officials.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I., will donate $20 million to a health care trust in response to allegations by the Rhode Island U.S. attorney’s office that former Rhode Island Blue executives may have had lobbying improper contacts with former state lawmakers between 1997 and 2003, according to Rhode Island Blue.
Former Rhode Island state Sen. John Celona and former House Majority Leader Gerard Martineau have pleaded guilty to public corruption charges in connection with the investigation, prosecutors say.
Rhode Island Blue has acknowledged in the agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office that the company paid $74,000 to a communications company to produce a cable access program hosted by Celona while the company was lobbying Celona, officials say.
The company also paid $175,500 for paper prescription bags from a company run by Martineau while the company was lobbying Martineau, officials say.
Rhode Island Blue “further acknowledged that it paid $400,000 in insurance brokerage commissions to an unidentified former Rhode Island Senate president while its executives were lobbying him concerning legislation,” officials say.
Celona, Martineau and the unnamed Senate president could not immediately be reached for comment.
For Rhode Island Blue, the agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office “will conclude the investigation,” the company says. “No criminal charges will be brought against the company, and BCBSRI will continue to cooperate fully with the government in its ongoing investigation.”
In addition to requiring Rhode Island Blue to cooperate with investigators, the agreement requires the company to make ethical reforms.
Rhode Island Blue implemented the reforms in 2004, James Purcell, the president of the company, says in a statement.
Rhode Island Blue “is a very different company today,” Purcell says.